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Ethical Issues

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie FRIAS COFUND Fellowpship Programme takes into account both the need to ensure freedom of research and the need to protect the physical and moral integrity of individuals and the welfare of animals.

In order to identify ethical issues at an early point in the application process, all applicants are required to fill in the “Marie S. Curie FCFP ethical issues table”. Furthermore, applicants are requested to explain ethical issues arising from their proposed research in detail in the project outline. The applicant should explain how these will be addressed, so as to conform to national and Horizon 2020 ethical principles.

Detailed information on identifying and dealing with ethics issues is provided in the ethics section of the Participant Portal Horizon 2020 Online Manual or contact the FCFP programme coordinator.

A preliminary screening during the eligibility check also looks at potential ethical issues, even if they were not pointed out by the applicant, to identify proposals requiring ethical evaluation.

In addition, experts in the international peer-review procedure are asked to indicate relevant ethical issues raised by the proposal.

Should there be a potential issue, and should the application successfully pass through the formal selection procedure, the project proposal is then referred to the university's ethics commission. This body operates on the basis of a code of procedure that fulfills the necessary requirements for such a commission as stated in various German laws. The same procedure applies should ethical issues arise during work on a given project.

The ethics commission issues a decision that may include requirements and restrictions. This decision is binding under the employment contract and different laws. As soon as the decision is issued and if it does not stand in the way of the project, the fellowship is offered to the applicant. In the event that the requirements and restrictions are extraordinarily difficult to fulfill, the Scientific Advisory Board has the authority to turn down an application on these grounds.

In compliance with the European Commission's Code of Ethics for Researchers the following fields of research are not eligible for funding under Horizon 2020 and cannot therefore be included in proposals:

  • Research activities directed at human cloning for reproductive purposes
  • Research activities intended to modify the genetic make-up of human beings that could make such changes heritable (apart from research relating to cancer treatment of the gonads, which may be funded)
  • Research activities intended to create human embryos solely for the purposes of research or stem cell procurement, including the technique of somatic cell nuclear transfer
  • Research that leads to the death of human embryos.

Specific procedures for the use of human embryonic stem cells are in place. In case FRIAS receives a proposal using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) the following specific procedure applies:

  • The international experts must mention in their evaluation report, if the use of hESCs is justified and necessary for the success of the project.
  • If the project is suggested for funding, the FRIAS programme coordinator contacts immediately the Research Executive Agency (REA) project officer, who will forward the research proposal and the scientific evaluation reports for the European Commission ethics review.
  • In addition, the REA will ask the PEOPLE Programme Committee for its opinion.
  • The research using hESCs may not start until the proposal receives the approval of the EC ethics review and the PEOPLE Programme Committee, which will communicated by the REA project officer.

Ethical issues also include the avoidance of any breach of research integrity, which means, in particular, avoiding fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or other kinds of research misconduct. In grave instances and after due process has established wrongdoings, fellowship offers can be retracted and current fellowships can be revoked.

About the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

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